KISS Army: An Interview With Ruairí Coleman

KISS/Army of Darkness issue 2 hit stores this week. It is a really fun series that is well worth your time. You can check out some inked pages from the book below to tempt you. I asked Ruairí Coleman about drawing iconic characters and getting to meet one of stars recently in Dublin.

I’m a fan of Army of Darkness but I’m not that familiar with KISS. I think Chad Bowers and Chris Sims do a great job of getting readers caught up in issue one.

I admit I’m not overly familiar with KISS myself: outside of their infamous make-up and greatest hits, I was a little in the dark myself going in.  Thankfully, KISS/Army of Darkness seems to standalone outside Dynamite’s other KISS comics so there’s no existing continuity to be concerned about.  However, that didn’t stop Chris and Chad giving them a great backstory that’s pulls from the band’s own history in a way that makes their involvement in the world of Army of Darkness totally credible.  I think that’s what you’re referring to when you said about catching readers up: it feels like there’s a whole adventure KISS has been on before we start this book, but that story hasn’t been told yet as far as I know.  It’s just really great writing by two masters!
From Ash’s side, the book seems to be focusing on the Army Of Darkness, are you a fan of that movie?
Absolutely. Since starting working on this project I think I’ve watched Army of Darkness more than Evil Dead 2 (my favourite of the three) in my entire life, and I haven’t gotten bored of it yet.
What about KISS?
As I was saying, I wasn’t overly familiar with the band starting out but during the preparation phase I listened to a few albums, watched plenty of live performances and even listened to Paul Stanley’s autobiography. I really admire Paul and Gene for what they’ve created with KISS: it’s a really inspirational story for any creative to see what can be achieved with vision and hard work. It’s a similar industrial spirit to that of Bruce Campbell making the original Evil Dead with Sam Raimi: creative, talented people striving to make their visions a reality, and becoming hugely successful as a result of their tenacity.  That’s the thought that occurs to me most often while working on this project.
Do you find likenesses difficult?

I hate likenesses. As you can tell from the book, because I’m not great at them.  I go for a roundabout likeness, a resemblance, rather than a prefect rendering of the people. For one, I don’t have the time to meticulously draw each character to that kind of accuracy – deadlines need to be met – and, secondly, I feel if you start to go down that route then when you don’t nail the accuracy each time it really pulls you out of the book.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better about sucking at drawing likenesses!

You’re definitely doing your take on Ash. I was wondering if you looked at other artists’ take on the character or did you just work from the movies/TV series?
I worked pretty much exclusively from the Army of Darkness and Evil Dead 2 blu rays.  Freeze-framing and sketching.  It’s the best way to figure out the proportions and facial characteristics that will allow you to draw the character from whatever angle and keep him looking somewhat the same throughout.  Plus it’s an excuse to watch those movies again and stare at Bruce Campbell’s handsome mug.
You actually got to meet the real life Ash, Bruce Campbell, recently. That must have been a cool experience.

Yeah, it was such a rush.  Literally as well as figuratively.  On the day of the Bruce Campbell book signing in the IFI in Dublin I had to finish and hand in my last page of issue 3. I got that in early afternoon with just enough time to freshen up and jump in the car to drive the 2 and half hours to Dublin, plus another thirty minutes stuck in traffic in the city.  We got to the IFI just in time for the doors opening.  Bruce came out and read from his book – “Hail To The Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor” – and then answered questions from the audience.  He was as affable and charismatic as you’d expect: the Q&A was as funny as it was enlightening. Then we got to queue up and get our copies of the book signed.  I was probably in front of Bruce for twenty seconds max – just enough time to have a laugh over how difficult it is to write my name, handshake, and out.  Back in the car and another 2.5 hours until we got home.  It was all worth it though.

I’m not usually one to gush over celebrities and wouldn’t go out of my way to see them at cons or anything, but Bruce Campbell is a special case.  I dragged my fiancée Nicole with me to the signing, who is – at best – familiar with Bruce and completely bemused by my adoration for him, and she came away won over just from hearing him tell a story about being high in Bulgaria.  Top man.

It is an entertaining book. What’s the most fun part of working on it?
Getting to draw the insane stuff Chad and Chris come up with. I don’t know what’s going to happen issue to issue until I get the script and each time I’m surprised by what the guys have dreamt up.  I can’t overstate how well Chad and Chris have married the mythologies of KISS and Army of Darkness and created something truly unique.  I’m drawing issue 4 at the minute and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I will say that nobody will be able to guess how this issue is going to go. I still don’t quite believe it and I’m drawing the thing. I’m giddy with excitement.
What should we expect in upcoming issues?

In terms of the plot, expect the unexpected but be prepared to have an absolute blast: this is a really wild ride that Chad and Chris have concocted and I think anybody that decides to pass on it is denying themselves a unique story and a lot of fun.  In terms of tone, the story blends all the key elements of the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness franchise: dark horror, witty dialogue and the odd helping of slapstick.  Chad and Chris have been writing Dynamite’s main Army of Darkness book so AoD fans are in a safe pair of hands. KISS fans should enjoy seeing the band as medieval warriors/superheroes too I think.  On the art front, I feel like I’ve been stepping it up slightly in each issue as I get more familiar with the characters and tone and issue 4 is shaping up to be my best work yet – it also helps that there’s lots of gore and viscera flying around as the story really starts to ramp up to the climax in issue 5. I’m having way too much fun on this book.

KISS/Army of Darkness Issue Two hit stores this week. You can follow Ruairí Coleman on Twitter here.